Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sandie Burrows on preparing for a major exhibition

Sandie Burrows' talk on how she is preparing artwork for the 2013 RHS botanical art show was very well attended.
Sandie lead us through her working process right from the start, from getting all the exhibition information, to making sketches in the field, to how she has achieved the final layouts of her 8 paintings.
The amount of work she has done in preparation for her final work is astounding, and her level of dedication is truly awe-inspiring.

A few points from her talk:

  • Draw, draw and draw! Drawing is the foundation of everything, you can never get too much practice.
  • Draw in the field from live specimens if at all possible. Go into your garden if you don't have a natural habitat nearby, or visit your local botanical gardens.
  • Make use of your local botanical garden. That is what they are there for. Visit the herbarium and ask for help!
  • Draw as much detail as possible, focus on botanical accuracy and recording as much information as possible.
  • Take plenty of reference photos.
  • Don't worry about the format of your prep drawings/sketches. Draw on any scrap of paper if necessary.
  • Keep all your drawings/sketches/photos/scraps of info together in a file. (Keep a file for each species). In this way your drawings and sketches are easily accessible for future reference, and you'll never know when you'll re-use them (rearranged in another format) again.
  • Take plenty of reference photos.
  • Use herbarium specimen to get proper scale of plant when out of the field.
  • Use prep drawings and sketches to "patch together" a preparation drawing for final painting.
  • Don't be scared to chop off and rearrange bits (stick together bits of paper!) to achieve a more pleasing composition when preparing for your final drawing. Although you must be careful to remain botanically accurate (don't put bits where they wouldn't normally grow, for instance!).
  • Use a tracing paper overlay marked with the "golden ratio" to make sure that your focal points are in the right spot.
  • Artworks for exhibitions must have "wall appeal"!
  • When paintings are to be hung as a group consider how they they will look together. Plan the layout of each painting so that it works well as a set. (Hanging of paintings iis then very important - paintings have to be hung in a certain arrangement.)
  • In a group hanging attention must be paid that focal point is in a different place in every painting. Careful attention must be paid to the visual weight of each artwork, and  how this works in the group as a whole. You want the viewer's eye to move about the group in a certain way.
We wish Sandie well in finishing her work, and look forward to seeing the final artworks!

One of Sandie's detailed botanical drawings from her Impatiens collection. Click to enlarge.

Gill thanking Sandie for her talk.

RHS Exhibition of Botanical Art - find links to guidelines and regulations at the bottom of the page

Photos and review by Samantha Haacke

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